It has become de rigueur, when discussing bands with members from different countries, to tout those geographical differences as a USP for the band’s music. Too often, the actual musical output doesn’t bear any evidence of this supposedly multicultural genesis and the product is instead yet another anodyne, uninspiring indie record.
Not so with Los Bitchos, whose members hail from Uruguay, Argentina, Australia, Sweden and London. The cross pollination of influences is at the heart of the record’s sound, an intrinsic part of its DNA without ever feeling forced or coming at the expense of good songwriting. The band’s press releases stress the importance of cumbia and Anatolian rock to their sound, and you can certainly hear that. But that is only to scratch the surface of the disparate influences and cues that have been marshaled to create this album.
The sonic backbeat of the record is a lithe and wordless combination of surf rock and psychedelia. They provide a constant through which the other elements are filtered. Within this established format, the band manage to find admirable variety, through judicious deployment of those disparate influences. ‘Good to Go’ begins with the lazy, swaggering strum of a Spaghetti Western before erupting into a full-tilt psych banger. ‘Tropico’ deploys a detuned guitar effect that could have been lifted from a Talking Heads or Low-era Bowie track in concocting a new-wave reggae sound that calls to mind Grace Jones’s Warm Leatherette. Throughout, Middle Eastern and North African inflections in the guitar and synth lines add additional range without falling into the trap of pastiche or tone-deaf borrowing.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this all sounds a little bit too tasteful, the slightly bloodless work of people with excellent record collections. This isn’t chin-stroking music, designed to just be admired or appreciated. This is dance music in the most literal sense of the word. I defy you not to move your body to these songs. ‘Change of Heart’ with its disco moves almost presents a night out in miniature, the slow start building to a bongo-assisted uptempo stomp, before the pace kicks into a frenetic, almost out of control rush in its second half. It is as though the band members are so wrapped up in things, they can barely control themselves. ‘Las Panteras’, meanwhile, begins with a bassline so funky it should carry a health warning.
It is, in fact, a record that calls to mind the best nights out. Those empowered by an anything goes approach to music selection rather than a limiting and steadfast adherence to just one genre. I haven’t really done justice to just how wide it casts its net. Afrobeat? Check. Science fiction soundtrack synths? Check. A bass and drums breakdown that could have been lifted from a 70s cop show? Check. The list could go on.
Somehow, the record manages to walk the tightrope between head and body music. The marveling at the musical hat tips never gets in the way of dancing, the two always complementing each other. It is both creative and fun, a joyous reminder of the communal enjoyment to be had within music. The album doesn’t need words to accomplish this, and its lack of vocals never feels like an absence. The members of Los Bitchos are quite capable of saying what they need to with their instruments. Put this on loud on your stereo and give in to its pleasures.
Words by Will Collins